By W. A. Mozart
Music Arranged by Pauline Malefance &
At the Navy Pier Skyline Stage, Chicago
A refreshingly innovative take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute
As part of their World’s Stage series, Chicago Shakespeare has smartly brought the magnificent South African troupe, Isango Ensemble to Chicago on their International tour of one of the most charming, energetic and innovative productions of Mozart’s beloved vaudevillian opera – The Magic Flute. Dressed in vivid African attire, the 30 person cast, with the exception of only a few roles, move swiftly from playing marimbas, drums and various percussion instruments to singing and dancing as well as producing marvelous male and female harmonies. I can’t remember seeing a more talented and versatile cast.
Featuring a music score basically true to Mozart, this African-infused and influenced opera is filled with sheer exuberance combining the spirit of contemporary Africa with the exuberance of Mozart’s 18th Century masterpiece. This manic show uses German, English with traditional elements of their South African roots including various African languages. The result is a slick, stylish Afric0-centerd opera that takes 2 hours to tell the story of the magic flute from a African perspective.
The terrific melodies and the rich harmonies together with the skilled rheumatic marimbas-based orchestra made for an unique musical experience. The story has a tad difficult to follow for those not familiar the story of The Magic Flute. But that hardly matters since the music, movement more that gives guideline as the the story. No super titles were used.
The rich voices , especially from the woman, gave a strong operatic sound to the opera. The tenors were a bit hard to hear on the open air Skyline Stage. But the bass and the baritones were easily heard as were the sopranos.
But, by far, the entire production is more than the sum of its parts. The opera is compelling , magical, and captivating. The playfulness and performance skills of the versatile carried the day. To see a world class troupe land a classic opera using the finest element of European art with contemporary African traditions is both a thrilling experience and a true artistic achievement worth seeing. You’ll me glad you saw this special opera. Hurry, their are only four performance left through September 28.
At the Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL, call 312-595-5600, www.chicagoshakes.com tickets $20 – $55, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, Friday, Sept. 26 at 7:30pm, Saturday, Sept, 27 at 3 & 8 pm, Sunday, Sept. 28 at 2 pm